Flight 123 on UtopiAir Now Boarding for Shangri-La - Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)

Flight 123 on UtopiAir Now Boarding for Shangri-La - Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS)
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The magic of air travel is alive and well at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS) in Texas. A whimsical exhibit called Interimaginary Departures, located between Gates 12 and 14, features a full-size holdroom filled with interactive multimedia features for ticketed passengers to explore and enjoy.

At first glance, the area identified as Gate ∞ (the infinity symbol) appears to be a typical airside lounge. But on closer examination, it’s soooo much more.

Realistic flight information displays provide details about fictional itineraries to fanciful places such as Hogwarts, Lilliput and Atlantis, on carriers with names like DystopiAir, PanAche and Airudite. In all, there are 120 different destinations, with clever references to literature, gaming, science fiction, film, animation and comics, ensuring amusement for guests of all ages and walks of life. 

“As air service continues to expand here in Austin, this work shows that if you can imagine it, AUS can help get you there,” quips Airport Chief Executive Officer Jacqueline Yaft.

Audio announcements at Gate ∞ include pre-boarding instructions about using the airport’s shrink ray and way-back machine. The rotating loop also provides weather and tips for various destinations—“Make sure to bring sunglasses to Asteroid B112”—and offers general advice such as, “Please try to remember to not behave like a grown-up.”

Bright white light streams from majestic double doors, hinting that something magical lies behind them on a boarding bridge. For safety and humor, a brass plaque reads, “This is an interimaginary portal. This is definitely not an exit.”  

A cast bronze kiosk with an image of a “duck-rabbit” issues souvenir tickets/boarding passes, but only after passengers use the touchscreen to answer esoteric questions such as, “Is doing nothing something?” and “What would a square circle look like?”.

Standard bench seating is installed askew, and one row bisects a holdroom wall. Fancy claw-footed ottomans seem like they might mischievously rearrange themselves.

Look closely at the carpeting, and you’ll find surreal images of three intertwined hares that share only three ears. Janet Zweig, the artist who created Interimaginary Departures, explains that this image can be spotted throughout the world—from 6th century Chinese caves to medieval European churches. She included the image in her artwork at AUS as an “Easter egg” for observant viewers to find. And it’s not the only one.  

The exhibit as a whole was commissioned by the city of Austin’s Art in Public Places Program and funded with $950,0000 from the airport’s Terminal Expansion Capital Improvement Budget. It is intended to be a permanent installation.

Zweig says she hopes that the one-of-a-kind exhibit helps distinguish AUS as a unique location for experiential art and an airport with a playful sense of humor.

To see and hear more of Interimaginary Departures, visit vimeo.com/661772538.


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